It’s going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking — or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast. Wow, so let’s get this straight, so what he did was, he picked up a porn star, paid her to have dinner with him, introduced her to his ex-wife — as you do — went to a hotel, got drunk, got naked, trashed the place while she was locked in a cupboard, and that was a Monday. What did he do New Year’s Eve?

Sounds like a bit from a stand-up act, but that was Ricky Gervais’ opener from last night’s Golden Globes. You can watch the opening monologue in its entirety here, and hear the pitiful laughter accompanying just about every barb. In what Deadline called “the meanest awards show ever,” Gervais — or, as Vanity Fair has punnily christened him, “Ricky Ticky Tacky” — laid into celebrities like it was going out of style. The humor wasn’t so extreme as to be inappropriate on network television, but it seemed perhaps a tad harsh to roast those in attendance to such a crisp. The backlash from Gervais’ hosting gig makes you wonder about the purpose of the larger awards shows, and about what we really consider “inappropriate.”

The Golden Globes, awarded yearly by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are an excellent example of the ambiguity surrounding awards show beneficiaries: Are they held for the recipients and honorees, or for the viewing audience at home? When it comes to the Globes, the answer is both, and neither. Technically, the Golden Globes are a fundraiser of sorts, as the non-profit Hollywood Foreign Press Association “receives substantial licensing fees for the network broadcasting rights to the Golden Globe Awards and from associated activities such as Golden Globe Awards pre-shows.” Both the performers honored and the viewers at home have a nice little takeaway. This awards ceremony is considerably more casual than the Academy Awards, taking place over dinner and drinks at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “Drinks” is the operative word here, as one of the facets that makes the Globes so watchable for audiences at home is its high percentage of intoxicated celebrities. You have to imagine that fancy food, booze, and the possibility of an award isn’t a bad way for anyone to spend an evening, let alone someone working in the entertainment industry, so I’m willing to wager those honored don’t have a terrible time, either.

So the Globes are more fun, less formal, and extra drunk. It would seem as though a no-holds-barred host would suit this shindig, and Gervais wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy when he presided over last year’s Golden Globes:

Hey, I’m not trying to attack Gervais’ work here. When he was invited to return to host the 2011 awards, Gervais quipped, “I can’t believe they invited me back after awful things I said. Let’s see how far I can go this time.” Gervais was acerbic; this should come as a surprise to no-one, least of all after he promised that after this year’s awards, “I guarantee they will not invite me back … I’m going to go out there, guns blazing, like it’s the end of the world.” So Gervais says he’ll pull no punches, he’s true to his word, and we all get upset?

Truth be told, I found his gig just a little uncomfortable. I think it’s unnecessary to cut that deep into people when everyone just wants to drink, have a nice time, and get an award that no one regards as really important. Make jokes, have fun, but I’m sure Robert Downey Jr is ready to move on from rehab, and Tim Allen is pretty well aware that his Toy Story 3 co-star Tom Hanks has had a more prestigious career. I didn’t really care for it, but hey, I didn’t hire him. Gervais did exactly what he said he’d do, the ratings were up, and everyone’s talking about the Golden Globes today in a way “everyone” (the internet) seldom does. The polarizing effect makes for some nicely public disagreements; The Fighter‘s Christian Bale said, “I’m hoping he’s going to keep going further.”

I think, given these reactions, that the HFPA might do well to bring a contrite Gervais back next year, but I might not bother watching it. Will he ever be back? Is Hollywood a bunch of babies? Are drunk celebrities fun to watch, or is that one just me?

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